The Experts Spill on How You Can Make or Break a Self-Taped Audition

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Self-taped auditions open up a new world of opportunity: you can ensure you produce the exact product you desire, while eliminating audition room jitters altogether. But self-taping also means you are endowed with much more personal responsibility to nail every detail, from the technical to the professional. To make sure you self-tape with your best foot forward, Backstage Experts and industry professionals weigh in with their most useful piece of advice below.

Follow every single instruction closely.
“Sometimes the casting director wants something very specific with the slate, like a full body shot, or a tight close-up and profiles. Make sure you read the original email carefully. If the instructions are to send via YouTube or Vimeo, make sure it’s a private link. If you are uploading into iMovie, you can send directly to Vimeo or Youtube from that application.” —Matt Newton, acting coach, founder of NYC’s MN Acting Studio, and Backstage Expert

Technical professionalism is crucial.
“During a recent Q&A with my students, the renowned television director David Semel (‘Homeland,’ ‘American Horror Story,’ ‘House M.D.’) described what he expects technically from a taped audition (aside from great acting). He said, ‘It’s important you’re well-lit and that I can hear you.’ We’re dealing with industry professionals with extremely demanding jobs. If they click on your footage, and the sound is too low or they can’t see you well, they might adjust the settings on their computer or they might just as likely click to the footage of the next actor.” —Joseph Pearlman, acting coach and Backstage Expert

Pay close attention to your framing.
“When you sit too close to the recording device, your face looks slightly distorted. A good general guide is to frame yourself from your hips/waist up if it’s a comedy and a bit closer (from your waist/top-ribs up) if it’s a drama. There shouldn’t be much discernible space above your head – the frame should ideally sit at or near the top of your crown. I can’t begin to count the number of self-tapes I get where the actor is at the bottom third of the screen! Try to give us a straight-on image, not angled up or angled down. If someone else is manning the camera, this will be much easier, but do the best that you can. Give us one standing full-body (or as much of yourself as you can get in there) shot and tell us your height so that we’ll have an accurate image of what you look like.” —Marci Phillips, Executive Director of ABC Casting and Backstage Expert

Let the light in.
“Never film in a dark room with poor lighting. A dark self-tape is certainly a deal breaker. Window light is all you need and if you can’t find a well-lit room to film in, gather up some lamps from other rooms in your home and place them as close to the actor as possible without moving them into the frame.” —Jessica Rofé, founder and artistic director of A Class Act NY and Backstage Expert

Dress on-theme with the project.
“A lawyer in a suit, an undercover cop in a leather jacket, a Washington socialite in a cocktail dress. For women, wear TV makeup (no red or dark lipstick or heavy eyeliner—keep it natural), and definitely style your hair. Wear a dress, blouse, or sweater in striking solid color. It’s more memorable to be in sapphire blue, fuschia pink, yellow, or emerald green as opposed to dull gray, beige, or black. Avoid patterns that can make the camera go out of focus and be very distracting. Men can wear dark suits or jackets, but add color with a shirt, tie, or sweater. A video audition says you look the part, are photogenic, and are a fantastic actor while looking attractive. It’s not just about your talent.” —Gwyn Gilliss, marketing coach, actor, and Backstage Expert

Don’t send unsolicited self-tapes—ever.
“Frankly, this is not productive for the agents and their clients, who are, in the majority of the cases, completely inappropriate for the role. In many cases a manager will forward me an unsolicited audition from their client without even vetting the material first. And a mediocre unsolicited audition leaves a bad taste in the casting director’s mouth, reflecting badly on the representative and their client.” —Marc Hirschfeld, casting director

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Casey Mink
Casey Mink is the senior staff writer at Backstage. When she's not writing about television, film, or theater, she is definitely somewhere watching it.
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